A Teachable Moment

PCT President Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

The Problem Is Still Poverty

So much of what passes for education reform is an attempt to overcome our society’s failure to confront the scourge of poverty. To a very great degree, economically disadvantaged children do significantly less well in school. We once understood this and had a political consensus to try to fix the problem. However, today’s conventional wisdom has it that Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty failed. It must have failed. We still have poverty in the United States. Yet, the fact is that most of the money appropriated for the War on Poverty went into Medicare, a program that dramatically lowered poverty among the nation’s elderly. Although Johnson clung to the notion that we could have “guns and butter,” the war in Viet Nam significantly stifled the anti-poverty fervor of the nation.

Today, we don’t even think of making war on poverty. Instead, we delude ourselves into believing that if we just get the right teachers and principals in our public schools, we can abolish the achievement gap between the haves and have-nots, even though, data driven though we are, there is no evidence to support this belief. Doubt what I’m saying? Read Diane Ravitch’s summary of Duke University Professor Helen Ladd’s research. Read it and weep over the thoroughly misguided education policy of our nation.

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